Societe Parisienne was a constructor of high quality bicycles, tricycles and velocipedes, formed in Paris in 1876 by Monsieur Reynard. By 1891 the company had changed hands and was run by Monsieur Couturier who expanded operations and began to build automobiles and “voiturette”, a term used by many early French auto manufacturers to describe tiny three and four wheeled motorcars. The company’s first attempt at a motorized vehicle did not materialize, as their ambitious idea of a machine powered by an air compressor failed to see the light of day. Subsequent attempts were more successful, thanks to the use of outside suppliers for their power plant – either by Aster or via the famed pioneering car company, DeDion-Bouton.
This fascinating Parisienne Victoria Combination voiturette is rather incredible when considering it is 116 years old, born in the first year of Parisienne production, 1899. While period critics considered the Victoria Combination (also known as the “Eureka”) to appear rather flimsy, it proved itself a rather stout little motor by completing a 150 mile trial, averaging 18 mph, with no unplanned stops – an impressive feat for a tiny 19th century machine, powered by a single-cylinder engine. More than 400 examples were produced, though it is unclear how many survive today, particularly in as fine condition as this. The DeDion Bouton single cylinder engine produces a mere 2.75 horsepower, but is still sufficient enough to move the little car along at a reasonable clip. The Parisienne Victoria worked well enough for them to sell 400 examples starting in 1899. While the company did also produce more conventional cars, they did not survive past the end of Victoria production in 1903.
This delicate little voiturette has been exquisitely restored and presents in very fine condition. Red paint is very pleasing and is detailed with dark red feature lines and cream striping. The leather bench has been expertly trimmed and presents beautifully. Polished nickel graces the controls, fuel tank, lamp and other fittings and the DeDion Bouton engine is finely detailed and correctly finished. The only notable modification is an electric starter, a welcome addition for enthusiasts who prefer to use their machines. This truly is a delightful machine that provides fascinating glimpse into the dawn of motoring history. The simple chassis seats two and is controlled with a tiller steering system that, rather curiously, steers the entire engine which is suspended between the front wheels. Typically for any late 19th and early 20th century cars, manufacturers were wildly experimenting with layouts with varying degrees of success. Should its 2.75 horsepower get out of hand and overwhelm the bicycle-type tires, stopping is done courtesy of two-wheel band-type brakes operated by a cleverly simply foot-pedal linkage system. The Victoria Combination is an elemental expression of the earliest days of motorized transport.
For fans of Edwardian motoring, this is a rare and fascinating machine. The delicate looks are highlighted by what can best be described as an exquisite restoration. It would surely be a welcome challenger at the London to Brighton Run or a similar veteran motorcar event, or an attractive curio at concours and shows.